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Thread: New York Film Festival 2019

  1. #31
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    DECADE OF FIRE (Gretchen Hildebran, Vivian Vazquez 2018)

    GRETCHEN HILDEBRAN, VIVIAN VÁZQUEZ IRIZARRY: DECADE OF FIRE (2018)


    COMMUNITY RECONSTRUCTION IN DECADE OF FIRE

    A personal film about the death and life of New York's South Bronx

    In the blighted South Bronx borough of New York City in the 1970's, empty and partly occupied apartment buildings were destroyed by fire on a weekly basis, rendering an estimated quarter of a million residents homeless and leaving the area looking like WWII fire-bombed Dresden. The fires, this personal account says, were not set by residents; "we are the ones who saved" the neighborhood, she says. Racist and dismissive outsiders like Nixon advisor Sen. Pat Moynahan, the prophet of "benign neglect," blamed it on locals and called it a sign of "social pathology."

    This doc, Joshua Minsoo Kim of Slant wrote, "feels like a film fit for classrooms" (John DeFore of Hollywood Reportersays rather "the technically polished result of a college research project") because indeed it was originally made "for ninth graders at a social justice-focused high school" aimed to show links between the Bronx fires, "cultural resistance" by means of graffiti and hop-hop, and community organizing that "saved the borough." This is the corrective provided by Vivian Vázquez Irizarry, who narrates, drawing on her experiences growing up in the Longwood section of the South Bronx with her Puerto Rican immigrant family and witnessing the destruction.She also did plenty of research, and collected much vivid visual documentation. Those descriptions, while superficially true, are misleading, because if you're interested in urban decay and urban revival, this is a little gem.

    The fires were often set by local youths but paid by absentee landlords to collect insurance money, it's reported. Destruction of the borough was furthered by Draconian city planner Robert Moses’s partitioning of the Bronx with the Cross Bronx Expressway or and "redlining" of which Irizarry's father was a victim: he was denied loans that would have permitted the family to move to the suburbs. We also learn NYC Mayor John Lindsay (1966-73) followed a computer analysis by the Rand Corporation and pulled fire departments out of the blighted borough, when they should have been augmented. Joe Flood, author of The Fires, talks about this. "Urban renewal," James Baldwin is seen saying, really meant "Negro removal." In the devastation of the abandoned neighborhood, the youth gangs became protectors who helped start a girls softball team.

    This film is a strong, personal vehicle for Irizarry's experiences and opinions, not a detached, scientific account, and some points aren't backed up by fact. But the strength of her story, enlivened by vibrant archival film footage, is how she depicts the warm, uniquely multicultural Bronx population's efforts to fight back and survive in the face of institutional racism from the outside, forming small volunteer groups that learned building trades. Further ravages came - crack in the eighties, mass incarceration in the nineties - as well as misguided government policy and rampant exploitation of real estate. The new threat is an influx of "luxury" apartments for those escaping the cost of life in Manhattan. Irizarry appears at the end as a busy current community activist. The fight goes on and people stay in a revived and still multicultural Bronx.

    As Manuel Betencourt wrote in Remezela, Decade of Fire is "a call to arms, a family memoir, and a history lesson," ad even more importantly, "a love letter to the Bronx and its inhabitants." This is a lively and inspiring little film.

    Decade of Fire, 76 mins., debuted at Full Frame (Durham), Apr. 2019, with limited theatrical release and broadcast on PBS Independent Lens in May 2019. Screened for this review as part of a pandemic VOD virtual theater release coming July 14, 2020.


    MIKA AMADEO'S RECORD SHOP STARTED IN THE SIXTIES IS STILL THERE
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 01:52 AM.

  2. #32
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    BROWSE (Mike Testin 2020)

    MIKE TESTIN: BROWSE (2020) - on VOD tomorrow


    LUCAS HAAS IN BROWSE

    TRAILER

    Daymare

    Browse depicts a thoroughly modern nightmare, and also has the virtue of being a horror movie that takes place largely in the daylight. It stars Lucas Haas in a rare-ish lead role as an ordinary man coming off a bad breakup who discovers his life is getting electronically taken over to ruin him and drive him crazy. He seems to have had his identify hacked via an invasion of all his devices after attempting online dating. Or perhaps it has nothing to do with the online dating.

    Testin chokes us with trivia at first, weaving in hints of trouble. Richard (Haas) gets a notice from his office boss that they're downsizing and he has to get rid of three in his department. Since there only seems to be one and she's someone he seems quite close to, this puts him in a bind. Then he gets a call saying he's behind on his rental furniture and it's going to be repossessed. Who rents furniture for months and months? You begin to wonder what was wrong already before ll the trouble starts.

    It's not till twenty minutes in that a suite of photographs and sad piano accompaniment review Richard's lost love. This is a pleasing passage because it's pretty and more visually complex than anything up to now. It ends with her standing, turning back in the foamy surf of a low tide. Maybe this was unnecessary, but it's a nice change of pace and it's backstory.

    Meanwhile the online dating meet-up leads to two police officers coming to the door warning Richard the lady he talked to is threatening to put a restraining order on him. But he only talked to her briefly once. His apartment rent is two months overdue now and the landlord threatens eviction. But this and the furniture are supposed to be paid automatically.

    Richard receives a UPS box full of packing peanuts with a pistol in it.

    Now Richard has no furniture and may be losing his apartment, he's hopping mad and has a pistol, and that just in 24 hours. His ex-girlfriend calls to threaten action for his frequent harassing phone calls, which he did not make. Next morning, jolted from an uneasy sleep, he finds "Roxie" didn't wake him up on time for work and he's quite late: the time system was disconnected, but he didn't do it. He arrives at work late, sweaty and rumpled, to more bad news.

    Richard, by the way, has a virtual reality headset he puts on from time to time. It plunges him into scary stuff. If it's a distraction he's seeking it's not a good one. Neither is hanging out with Kyle (Bodhi Elfman), a trivia-talking employee of the building, nor ogling a woman in a neighboring building with a camera in hand. All this sets up a thoroughly modern nightmare - while his actual nightmare of being hanged on a scaffold, is thoroughly old fashioned.

    This is a little film, and though its trappings are contemporary it has a classic quality. It might be a "Twilight Zone" episode. To me is is satisfying to see Lucas Haas star in it, and I think it can be remembered for that. He's an actor with a kind of "cult" quality. He started so young, and is connected to big stars (Leo DiCaprio, Toby McGuire) as lead bro', pops up in videos and movies but remains low profile, making him a kind of cult figure, and also, because a less familiar face, good to play this unfortunate everyman. Let's hear it for Lucas Haas! And also, let's not that this is a hand-crafted feature for Mike Testin, because he's not only the director, but the cinematographer and editor of Browse. It has a very nice score, tunefully avoiding genre cliches, led by brilliant jazz drummer Makaya McCraven, and in the spirit of jazz the end credits list all the individual band members and their instruments. The music makes it well worth staying for the very last minute of those credits. With Sarah Rafferty and Chloe Bridges.

    Browse, 85 mins., opens on VOD July 7, 2020.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 10:40 PM.

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